What do sea turtles, veterans, language programs, science and football have in common?

They’ll all be better off thanks to the generosity of Jim and Julia Rosengren, who have committed $6.6 million to support those programs at the University of Central Florida. It is among the largest alumni commitments in university history. Combined with their previous donations, the Rosengrens have committed $7.95 million to UCF – the largest total from an alumnus in university history.

While donors often target a single program, Jim Rosengren, ’81, said he and his wife are passionate about so many things at UCF they couldn’t pick just one.

“We just decided to spread the love around a little bit,” he said. “It is important to us to be able to take some of our wealth and put it in areas we are passionate about.”

Their donation will support:

  • An endowed chair to support the activities of UCF RESTORES, a clinic operated by Deborah Beidel, a Pegasus Professor of psychology. The clinic has shown remarkable success treating veterans and first responders with PTSD.
  • The UCF Marine Turtle Research Group, which for more than 30 years has conducted research on the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most important sea turtle nesting sites in the world.
  • The university’s Football Excellence Fund, dedicated to providing exceptional resources for the Knights.
  • The Department of Modern Languages & Literatures in the College of Arts & Humanities.
  • An endowed professorship in the College of Sciences.
  • “The generosity of Jim and Julia will help the university tremendously,” UCF President John C. Hitt said. “Their support of such diverse programs and their commitment to our students, faculty, researchers and student-athletes allow us to continue our upward trajectory.”

    The Rosengrens decided to make their commitment now partly to honor Hitt’s 26 years of service to the university, a milestone celebrated March 1. Hitt, who began his own career as a professor, will work closely with the UCF Foundation after he steps down from the presidency this summer to secure more endowed faculty positions like those created by the Rosengrens.

    The gift moves UCF closer to the $500 million goal of the IGNITE Campaign, a multiyear fundraising effort set to wrap up in 2019. Donors have already given nearly $360 million to the campaign. Michael Morsberger, vice president for advancement and CEO of the UCF Foundation, said the Rosengrens’ contribution to the campaign will long be felt at UCF.

    “The Rosengrens have been very strategic in their giving,” Morsberger said. “They were clear that they wanted to target their support of UCF in a way that would benefit not only current faculty and students, but continue to benefit faculty and students for generations to come. I believe that’s exactly what they’ve done. Of course, extraordinarily generous gifts like this often have the added impact of inspiring others to make commitments of their own.”

    The Rosengrens live in Dallas, where Jim recently retired as executive chairman of Heritage Health Solutions, a health care company that serves more than 3 million veterans through government contracts. They have a personal connection to each of the areas benefitting from their philanthropy.

    “We could not choose,” Julia said. “We wanted to be part of something that really captured us.”

    Jim’s son Josh – an Army veteran – was treated at the RESTORES clinic after returning from two tours in Iraq with severe PTSD symptoms. And Jim has always loved UCF football. As a student and ROTC cadet commander, he would march on the field with the honor guard and fire a cannon to celebrate touchdowns in the downtown Citrus Bowl where the fledgling team played at the time. He continues to be a supporter of the Knights; an earlier commitment funded the new on-field cabanas and J&J Rosengren Lounge that opened before the start of the 2017 season.

    Julia, who has traveled the world and speaks nine languages, wanted to support foreign-language programs after taking an intensive three-week immersion program in Russian language and culture at UCF over the summer. She also accompanied sea turtle researchers during their work at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, where she helped release a wayward hatchling and witnessed a mother turtle lay her eggs in the sand.

    “For us to be able to take some of our wealth and put it in an environment that I am passionate about and Julia has become very passionate about, for me, there’s no better place,” Jim said. “It’s like Dorothy said, ‘There’s no place but home.’”